Number of cancer cases rises rapidly
By Hu Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-20 08:46

The combined factors of improper diet and stress have increased the incidence of some highly fatal cancers in China, including colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

During recent medical conferences,experts reported alarming growth of some forms of cancer and called on the public to guard against the diseases by changing unhealthy lifestyles and ensuring early detection.

The major killer

The Ministry of Health reported early this year that cancer has become the leading killer of Chinese. Cancer deaths have increased 29 per cent over the last 20 years.

In Shanghai, colorectal cancer has become the most fatal cancer after lung cancer, surgeons reported at the Second International Colorectal Cancer Forum on Saturday.

In 20 0 0, the cancer was reported to have hit 40.8 Shanghai residents in every 10 0,0 0 0.Its incidence rate has increased by 4.2 per cent each year.

"The cancer incidence rate in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou almost equals that in Western countries,but the growth is twice the global figure," said Dr Xu Xinyu of Zhongshan Hospital.

The same is true of pancreatic cancer,the most risky malignant tumour of the digestive system.

Pancreatic cancer hits about 10 in every 100,000 people, foreign medical journals report.China's statistics are not available.

"We have seen the number of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer increase year by year around the country," said Professor Zhao Yupei, president of the Chinese Society of Surgery under the Chinese Medical Association, during the 11th China Pancreatic Surgery Conference held early this month in West China's Qinghai Province.

The Beijing-based Peking Union Medical College Hospital reported that the number of pancreatic cancer patients admitted to the hospital is six times greater than five decades ago.

"A particular feature of the cancer is the significant increase in the number of young adult patients in recent years, for whom the cancer is more malignant and medical intervention is less successful," said Professor Zhao.

On average, pancreatic cancer patients survive less than six months; less than 1 per cent of patients survive five years. No more than 20 per cent of patients can undergo surgery,the most effective therapy currently available to treat the cancer.

Early detection and prevention

Surgeons attribute the high mortality rate to the features of the pancreatic cancer: it's hard to detect and cancer cells spread to other areas quickly. But poor awareness of the public is the leading cause.

"About 85 per cent of patients fail to be diagnosed until pancreatic cancer develops to the late stage," said Professor Zhao, stressing the importance of early detection and prevention.

"If the cancer can be detected when the tumour is less than 1 centimetres, about 80 per cent of patients are expected to survive for five years."

However, most pancreatic cancer patients with early symptoms are misdiagnosed
with stomach or gallbladder problems. "If people have pain in the upper abdominal area, and possibilities of other diseases are ruled out they should consider the pancreas and take further checks," said surgeon Yu Conghui at the Hepatobiliary Department at the General Hospital of Beijing Military Command.

Professor Xu said that many colorectal cancer patients mistakenly assume their problem is hemorrhoids at the early stage."Given timely treatment at the early stage,the five-year survival rate of colorectal cancer patients would reach more than 70 per cent," said Xu.

Experts say the increase in cancer is closely connected to the environment and unhealthy lifestyles.

Pancreatic cancer is closely related with high alcohol consumption and excessive intake of food rich in protein and fat. "Many patients like drinking bowls of liquor and take a large amount of beef and mutton, which are very risky factors," said Professor Wu Xinmin, president of Qinghai People's Hospital.

Medical experts recommend that people quit smoking, eat more vegetables and fruit rich in fibre and take physical exercise. For people over 40 years old, especially those with a family history of cancer, a health check every year is important.